Thursday, 19 June 2008

Snakes Alive!

There is a report (http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=161818&command=displayContent&sourceNode=161644&contentPK=20891285&folderPk=88499&pNodeId=161375) about a 16 year old girl holiday maker from Cardiff being rushed to hospital and being given anti-venom after being bitten by an adder at Horton on the Gower. The adder or viper (Vipera berus) is , in deed, the UK's only poisonous snake but the venom is actually no more toxic than a bee sting (there just happens to be a lot more of it). The snake actually normally uses its venom to subdue its prey (animals like mice, frogs and small birds) but it can be used when the reptile feels threatened and cannot escape easily (its normal response). The fact that the girl was bitten on a finger joint suggests that she was investigating the animal or its immediate location. The snakes normally only bite defensively if they are handled or are actually trodden on (the bite is more dangerous for 'targets' of small body size such as a child or a dog but some people have allergies). The adder is actually a remarkable animal with the largest geographical range of any reptile (from the margins of the Northern polar region to Southern Europe) as a consequence of its production of live young rather than eggs. It would be a great pity if this accident (the snake didn't mean any harm and was operating in an area where its species has lived for at least as long as humans) increased the pressures on this animal or its near relatives (I have heard of numerous local cases of Slow-worms and Grass snakes being battered to death in the belief that they were 'dangerous').

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